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Fixing the business climate is the economic solution Ohio needs

Chris Myers

As a small business owner, it is disappointing to watch jobs and businesses flee from our state when there are so many ways we can improve the business climate. I know firsthand how a burdensome business climate hinders job creation and economic development, and throughout this General Assembly, I have fought to make Ohio’s business climate more competitive. Unfortunately, due to political gamesmanship, we are still at square one.

Locally, there are more than 26,300 unemployed residents of Lucas County. When I speak with concerned citizens in our community, I am frequently asked what the Ohio House is doing to boost economic development in this recession. Are we providing enough incentives to prospective businesses and entrepreneurs? How are we going to make Ohio competitive with other states?

Ohioans work when small business works, and the good news is that we have the solutions right in front of us, in what the House Republicans have called the “Future of Ohio” jobs package, which would give businesses the boost they need to create jobs. The bad news is that although it has been nearly one year since the “Future of Ohio” jobs package was unveiled to the legislature and the public, partisan maneuvers have blocked these bills from being passed from the House. None have even been voted out of committee. It begs the question, “Why is the majority party afraid of talking about making Ohio more competitive?”

Northwest Ohio is hungry for a real conversation and real action, not sounds bites that have no substance behind them. That is why, despite the legislative standstill, I have continued to advocate for the passage of these 10 bills from the House, especially House Bills 144 and 311.

House Bill 144 would grant a five-year income tax credit for recent college graduates who reside in Ohio. The intent behind this legislation is forward-thinking; by increasing the number of college-educated individuals in competitive, modern fields, Ohio would be able to attract the industries of the 21st century. This is especially important because we have watched our brightest minds pack up and move to friendlier job climates, which has depleted our skills base. This is a crucial component of a better business climate—having a population that can sustain business growth and high-tech innovation.

Another way to help create jobs in Ohio is to ensure that our business climate does not over-regulate and therefore deter business growth. House Bill 311 would take steps to enact small business regulatory reforms. It would require a rule-making agency to conduct a cost-benefit analysis and regulatory flexibility analysis on how proposed rules might impact small businesses. It would also create the Ohio Small Business Ombudsperson to help small business owners with compliance issues. These measures would help small businesses remain compliant with the ever-changing regulatory environment, making it easier for small businesses to grow and succeed.

Now is the time that we need to be examining Ohio’s business climate and ensuring that we are doing all we can to create jobs in our state. But to date, none of the 10 bills have even been voted out of committee while unemployment remains in the double digits. I truly believe that had the Ohio House worked in a bipartisan, cooperative effort to improve our business climate, we could be on our way toward a more competitive 21st century state economy. Instead, we will soon have even more urgent—and likely painful—decisions to make in the next budget.